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WOMEN IN AFGHANISTAN – TEN YEARS ON
Years of civil unrest and tribal conflict in Afghanistan have exacerbated rigid gender roles for women and girls, especially at tribal and village levels. Women and girls have been abused and suppressed for the purpose of keeping the integrity and honour of the tribes. Life for women was made even more difficult under the Taliban, when the women of Afghanistan were largely banned from social and political life.
Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, while Afghanistan has seen a rising level of women's political participation, there remains numerous challenges and growing concern for the future.
Today, Afghanistan is still one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a women. With increasing violence for women in and outside of the home, the withdrawal of troops from the summer of 2011 and moves by the international community and Afghan government to involve the Taliban in the peace and reconstruction process, the situation for women in Afghanistan is dire and is likely to remain so.
For peace to have a chance, for women to have a chance, women must have opportunities to play a fuller part in the peace process and public life. And there must investment in women's health, education, economic development and rights awareness, so women can play a fuller part in their societies and the rebuilding of their country.
- The brutal suppression of women's rights under the Taliban was cited as one of the justifications for US Military intervention in 2001
- Research by Global Rights Afghanistan in 2008 concluded that 87 percent of Afghan women and girls are faced with at least one form of sexual, physical, economic or psychological abuse
- Outspoken women are often the targets of intimidation and their safety remains a key concern. In September 2008 Taliban gunmen killed Afghanistan's most prominent policewoman; the Head of the Department of Crimes against Women in Kandahar, Lt-‐Col Malalai Kakar
- A women dies in childbirth every 27 minutes, mainly, because of a lack of healthcare
The Peace Process
- The National Consultative Peace Jirga in June 2010 had 1600 participants of which more than 350 (22 percent) were women. The original list had only 20 women participants. It is broadly recognised that pressure from the international community and constant lobbying of women's groups with government officials enabled their wider participation.
- The Kabul Conference in July 2010 involving representatives of donor and other stakeholder countries, had only one woman participant who was asked to present as a representative of civil society, including women's groups. During the conference, the Afghan Women's Network (AWN) expressed their concern in statements, press conferences and direct negotiations with government officials that the Afghan Peace and Re-‐integration Plan (APARP) excludes women from the overall process of design, implementation and oversight of the planned peace and reintegration process. The plan does not refer to international instruments like 1325, CEDAW or other human rights conventions. National instruments like NAPWA and the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Law are also excluded from the guiding principles of the implementation of APARP.
- Women's groups and activists are struggling to be included as part of the Leadership Committee of the High Peace Council that will be established as an outcome of the National Consultative Peace Jirga in June
- Women have also expressed concern about secret talks believed to be taking place involving Afghan government officials, Pakistani intelligence and some Taliban leaders. While women's groups can advocate for inclusion of women's voices and concerns in publicly acknowledged negotiations, they fear that women's rights can too easily be negotiated away in behind-‐the-‐scenes dealings.
Politics and Law
- The Afghan government has committed to fast tracking women's participation in the civil service to 30% by 2013 (currently 22% with only 9% at decision making level)
- In the 9,394 Community Development Councils 21,239 (24%) are women and 67,212 (76%) are male
- While women represent 25% of the National Assembly, the Minister of Women's Affairs is the only female cabinet member and in 17 out of 36 Ministries there are fewer than 10% female employees
- Of the 1547 sitting judges only 62, 4.2% are women.
- Of the 546 prosecutors, 35 (6.4%) are female
- Of the 1241 attorneys 76 (6.1%) are female
- Women's wages are 1/3 of men's
- There are some 50,000 war widows in Kabul supporting an average of 6 dependants
- Women play a vital role in the South harvesting poppies with three solid meals a day included as part of their wage packet
Violence against women
- Violence against women including rape, torture and forced marriage is getting worse (the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission).
- 80% of women experience domestic violence
- 60% of marriages are forced
- 50% of girls marry before they are 16 (Womankind Worldwide)
- According to the 2008 Violence Against Women Primary Database Report (UNIFEM) 92% of reported cases of abuse of women and girls is by close family members and other relatives. When they seek recourse from the government they are further molested by the government representatives.
Women for Women International in Afghanistan
WFWI has worked in Afghanistan since 2002. We run a one year programme offering financial support, rights awareness education, training in vocational skills and business skills to marginalised women throughout the country.
The Programme offers a package of support to help women meet their most urgent needs and negotiate obstacles such as poverty, violence, a lack of education and healthcare.
In 2008 we launched a Men's Leadership Programme. It encourages male leaders from all sectors; police, religion, military, government and business to help change the attitudes and behaviour of men.
We have delivered support in Afghanistan since 2002, serving 37,388 women, benefiting an additional 201,895 family members across Afghanistan. Our main office is based in Kabul.